Bus blunder? Or clever publicity tactic?

The Alberta social media scene was ablaze on Monday morning as a photo of Danielle Smith’s campaign bus made its way to hundreds of thousands of computer screens via Twitter and Facebook.

The Alberta social media scene was ablaze on Monday morning as a photo of Danielle Smith’s campaign bus made its way to hundreds of thousands of computer screens via Twitter and Facebook.

For those who missed it, the photo showed a large Wildrose Party campaign bus emblazoned in party colours and a massive picture of party leader Danielle Smith — the bus’s dual wheels positioned comically over her chest.

Many of us in the Advocate newsroom gathered around a colleague’s computer on Monday morning and had a good laugh — musing at how the Wildrose folks could have missed such an obvious blooper.

But after giving it more thought, I’m not so sure it was a blooper at all.

Business and politicians alike are beginning to grasp the limitless influence of social media. A single viral photo, video or audio clip has the power to make or break an entire campaign.

Large corporations pay big money to try to make their ads go ‘viral’ on the Internet. But more often than not, online viral status occurs completely by chance.

Whether by clever planning or total fluke, the Wildrose bus image has certainly gone viral.

At last look, one single image being shared on Twitter had almost 20,000 views and that was just one of hundreds of ways the photo was being shared.

While analyzing this apparent Wildrose faux pas, I asked myself: Did this hurt the campaign or the Smith’s image in any way?

It was all a tad embarrassing perhaps, but I would argue that no significant damage was done.

But you can bet thousands of Albertans were talking about the Wildrose at the dinner table on Monday evening.

Party spokesman Shannon Stubbs said Smith had a good laugh over the bus fuss, but the vehicle needs to be redone so that it doesn’t become a campaign distraction.

Later in the day, Smith tweeted, “Glad to see everyone is so interested in our bus. 😉 Guess we’ll have to make a couple of changes huh?”

So Smith scores even more PR points by handling the great bus blunder with good humour.

I was among the thousands of people making silly jokes and puns online on Monday.

Here are some of the best comments I encountered:

l “The Wildrose is ‘BUS-ted.’ ”

l “You don’t want to see her pair of campaign hot air balloons.”

l “If I were Danielle Smith, I’d show up to my next event carrying some tires.”

l “Nice hubcaps!”

l “The Girls Gone Wild-rose bus!”

Of course a few whiners were griping about the immaturity and sexist attitudes of those willing to make jokes on the matter.

To those people I simply say, “lighten up.”

Perhaps it’s the conspiracy theorist in me wanting to believe the whole thing was a well-played stunt, but it would sure be refreshing to see a political campaign featuring a little humour and creativity, rather than the same old crap we’ve been getting for the past four decades or so.

Leo Paré is the Advocate’s online editor.

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